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Jet
30-08-2003, 12:35
The last couple of times I was in Moscow I have noticed that people do speak some English. I mean waiters or just somebody you ask on the street for direction. It is still not much but way better than it used to be. What do you think?

What about expats, I heard many expats can just get by with rudimentary russian? Is it difficult to lear Russian? I am a native speaker but if you ask me I could not explain the simplest things in russian grammar. :)

kniga
30-08-2003, 14:26
Jet Li,

I have noticed an increase in the number of Russians speaking English over the years, mainly among service personnel interfacing with the public, e.g., at hotels, restaurants, etc., as well as among Russian businessmen and students. Still, as in any country, speaking the local language is an enormous advantage in all cases and an absolute necessity in many cases.

It is difficult for the expat to get along speaking "traveler's Russian" because the grammar is too complex to allow for the use of "simple" Russian. If one learns stock phrases, e.g., "Where is the...", "How much is...?", the Russian assumes greater knowledge of the language and will answer in a normal fashion, often leaving the expat lost in the answer.

Since you confess to not knowing anything about your native language's grammar, you cannot possible understand just how difficult it is for the non-native, say a speaker of English, to encounter 6 singular (if not 7) and 6 plural forms of masculine nouns, then 12 more for feminine nouns and another 12 for neuter nouns in place of just two forms (singular and plural) of all nouns in English. Then there is the matter of Russian having two forms of verbs (perfective and imperfective aspects) where English has only one (although aspect is provided with auxiliary verbs). Not less confusing is the total absence of definite and indefinite articles and the verb "to be" in the present tense, save for questions and emphasis.

Conversely, the native Russian speaker is confronted with a bewildering set of verb forms with all its tenses, moods and aspects and auxiliary forms in English, to say nothing of nightmare pronunciation that almost demands memorization of the pronunciation of each word. Truly, both in Russia and countries of the English speaking world, the foreigner would do well to try and learn his host country's language.

Kniga

Jet
30-08-2003, 16:04
Go easy on my Russian grammar Kniga :)

You have a military Russian language training background, so I guess it is difficult for you to really understand other professionals with no such background either. I mean there are different methods, one is formal training and another one is "on-the-job" or "with the honey". The latter tend to be faster, which brings us to the issue of how fast do expats pick up the necessary stuff. Perhaps, undersatnding not speaking Russian can be enough? The fact that English is not that wide-spread in Russia might be a blessing in disguise, as some expats are compelled to learn Russian.

2nd
31-08-2003, 00:24
I understand that for expressing one self in Russian and for deep understanding one needs more than just the vocabulary and the grammer. Educated Russians use a lot of quotations and references to the literature, films etc. and you can learn a lot about a person just by knowing from where he or she takes the references.

More so here than in any other country that I know, perhaps France comes closest. Possibly also Germany.

I consider it a disaster that English has become so dominating. There is no grammer only exceptions to the rules, there is not one way to spell a sound, there is not one way to pronounce a suite of letters.

I suppose we, non-English speakers including Americans, should apologise for maltreating the English language as if we knew how to use it and expect to be understood by English and non-English speakers.

We shall all be grateful to the old greeks for all the common vocabulary like telephone, television etc. in all languages except German and Norwegian. And we shall all be grateful to the arabs who gave us the numbers.

I lost my point somewhere. Too late in the night.

Jet
31-08-2003, 00:59
"we, non-English speakers including Americans"

a good one

kniga
31-08-2003, 07:03
Jet Li,

To learn to speak Russian by ear can be done, but it limits the speaker like the person who plays a musical instrument by ear. In both cases, it is possible to go only so far without formal training. I also don't believe that it is possible to just understand Russian. While it is true that one's passive vocabulary is always larger than one's active vocabulary, I cannot imagine that someone could advance to the linguistic height of understanding Russian without learning to speak it as well. Certainly, given enough time, an expat could learn Russian by emersing himself in the language and the culture, and as 2nd points out, learning a language involves far more than just formal lessons. In fact, no on really achieves a true degree of fluency in any language without learning a good chunk of the cultural aspects of that language's people. It helps to know that "Ruki Proch" not only means "Hands off!", but is also the name of a Russian rock group.

It is always a blessing when expats are forced to learn the local language, but members of the English speaking world (including those of us who speak the quaint American variant) have a tougher time of it than, say, Europeans, because they have little or no impetus to learn other languages in their home countries where everyone speaks English.

The only thing that strikes me as being "a disaster" about English proliferating all over the world is that it would certainly be more convenient if it were an easier language to learn and pronounce like Spanish.

2nd, lay off the glug late at night and you won't lose your point! :-)

Kniga

2nd
01-09-2003, 00:47
Actually my full pseudo is 2nd to none.
On this forum we are all on a first name basis I assume.

This may deserve a comment. The first name basis is not always very comfortable. I prefer the Russian, the French and the German etc. way where you make a difference between you and you. To not use first names in English when so is expected makes it dramatically unfriendly.

2nd
01-09-2003, 00:49
I had better lay off the glug, it is getting late.

kniga
01-09-2003, 01:28
Dear Mr. 2nd to None,English used to have the second person singular, "thou", but it is found only in old texts and the bible. I think the Spanish "tu" and "Usted", French "tu" and "vous", German "du" and Sie" and Russian "ÔÙ" and "÷Ù" are very handy to establish relationships between people. However, I have noticed that in America, where the distinction has been to use first names only with friends and family and "Mr." and "Mrs." in other cases, the younger generation calls everyone by their first name, more's the pity. And, in parallel, the Russian younger generation no longer uses first name and patronymic as a sign of respect, but has also gone to the use of the first name and a switch to "ÔÙ". Sic transit gloria mundi and manners along with it...

Kniga

2nd
01-09-2003, 02:00
Honourable Ms. Kniga, Senior Member
I sincerely hope and would be most honoured If I may remain on a first name basis with you.
I agree, of course, as you emphasise my point, although in a more (I forgot the word) way. I am glad the younger Russians still address older people with respect, and at the same time anyone can address the Head of State the same simple way.
Your humble
2nd (perhaps to you)

Jet
01-09-2003, 02:04
btw Kniga is a man, I think 60 smth years old :D

kniga
01-09-2003, 02:07
2nd,

"Kniga" will do fine, since you have used the feminine form of address ("Ms.") which is definitely not correct. :-)

Kniga

Jet
01-09-2003, 02:13
But strictly speaking you using Kniga as a nic is also not entirely correct, b/s you are a man

kniga
01-09-2003, 04:38
Jet Li,

I think you have lived in Finland too long. In English, "kniga" is a "book", which is just a nickname, and neither Russian nor Finnish rules of grammar apply. :-)

Kniga

J.D.
01-09-2003, 09:23
2nd person singular familar 'thou' and its cousin 'thee' still exist in some dialects, Omish and others. English also use to have a second person dual. Personally I like having the ambiguity of a single 'you' for formal and informal. That way you if you are not sure of the situation just use 'you' and you are safe. Unlike trying to decide whether or not to use someone's first name. In an introduction when I am unsure I use first and last name and title if it is Dr, Proffesor or such but not Mr/Ms. Then I leave it to them to work out.
The singular/plural aspect can be a problem. We actually have a second person plural, 'you all' or as it is often contracted 'ya'll'. It is used almost exclusively in the Southeastern portion of the US and is generally not considered to be sophisticated.

wwwoland
01-09-2003, 09:39
Not long ago, as a Yankee forced to live for some time in the South (no offense Kniga), I did learn several thing about the linguistic peculiarities of the English langage of the region... As JD points out, "y'all" is commonly used for "you". But does anyone know how "y'all" declines in the Southern language?

1. base
-- y'all
2. plural
-- all y'all
3. possesive
-- all y'all's
4. singular....
-- darlin' :)

Y'all have a great day, y'hear?

Jet
01-09-2003, 12:10
So, I guess the title of the thread should be corrected: I can't get by with my English :) I wouldn't be able to understand a thing if I speak to the Southerners or any other Amish dialect :) How can I expect people to learn Russian?

J.D.
01-09-2003, 14:19
Southern is not an Amish dialect.

Jet
01-09-2003, 14:36
I know, I expressed myself wrongly, which makes my point

CaliforniaAngel
03-09-2003, 09:35
Originally posted by wwwoland

1. base
-- y'all
2. plural
-- all y'all
3. possesive
-- all y'all's
4. singular....
-- darlin' :)

[/B]
www,
That was a beautiful and acurate discription. I laughed my fanny off. (Oops I had to edit, I thought I was in Bardak for a minute there) I do much prefer the cafe even if I have to curb my potty mouth.
~Angel

wwwoland
03-09-2003, 09:59
Angel,

Glad you enjoyed it! During my short stay in the South, I was shocked to learn that I often couldn't understand my own language (at least I think Southern is a dialect of American English) :)

Btw, why the sad face after "still in N. Calif"? San Fran, etc. is a wonderful place! Or do you just miss Russia? If so, I completely understand.

www

CaliforniaAngel
03-09-2003, 10:31
I am just impatient. I made up my mind to move to Moscow last April. It took me this long to get the details worked out. I will be arriving at the end of October, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I will get there soon. :)

D.A.R.
03-09-2003, 12:54
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to return topic of this thread.

Reading your discussion about “òû” and “Âû” I have thought of (as I think) interesting peculiarity. I supposed that the Western culture (I mean European and South American societies) has a respect for personality as fundamental feature, whereas Russian culture is more joint and collective one in which interests of a group rise above interests of a person often. Nevertheless the Russians distinguish between single and plural “you” in their language (what speaks to me there is certain limit in relations between Russian people who are not familiar with each other) but the English speaking people do not place high emphasis on this point. How are the English speaking people able to keep respect to personality in this connection? (I do not doubt in the keep of this feature, but I ask in what way).

J.D.
03-09-2003, 12:58
It is done, or not done, mostly through tone. As well as the addition of other words, good and bad.

EXCUSE me! vs. Excuse me please.

jules
03-09-2003, 13:49
I lived for far too long in a rural community (pop. maybe 1000) in Canada where there was also a plural for the word 'you' - 'Yous' (pronounced 'yuzz' - like 'fuzz') - I still catch myself saying "So, are yuzz all coming over, or what?" "Yuzz want some pop for mix?" and such like... :D

D.A.R.
03-09-2003, 14:35
I would like to enlarge my comment. My question concerns a possible language influence on behaviour of nations in concerned connection. And it seems to me that in spite of making distinction between plural and single “you” the Russians do not have a respect for personality, for personal liberty, and for individual rights sufficiently whereas the English speaking people do vice versa or think that they do vice versa :). Why? What do you think?

J.D.
03-09-2003, 15:47
I'm surprised that Russia still has a formal and informal you. As I understand it, it was lost from English as the common man started to aquire some status and everybody began to be regarded as important. I would have thought that communism would have produced the same result.

skinnylad
04-09-2003, 15:04
While it's generally accepted that the Soviet era had very strong influence on the Russian language - i.e., its "sovietisation", I don't think its realisitic to expect the so-called equality promulgated by the Soviet authorities to have had such a profound and direct effect on the use of "ty" and "vy", particularly in light of Russia's history and the relatively short period (in linguistic terms) of Soviet power. Respect and politeness are expressed in so manner more complex ways than merely a polite 2nd person form - the use of "high" and low" forms of a language, being only one example. Persionally I have noticed (an it's only anecdotal, of course) the use of patronymics decline in Russia over the past 20 years, but I still endeavour to use them whenever I feel it's appropriate

Probably the most interesting example that I know of is Malaysia, where any one of up to 6 "languages" can be used (Bazaar Malay, Malay, Chinese, English, etc), depending on status in the community or family, or the situation.

I think the use of language has a very clear influence on the way a nationality is perceived (polite, rude, abrupt, etc.), but does the language change the nature/personailty of a nationality? If the comment above regarding respect for personal liberty were true, how are we to inperpret, say, Spanish, French and (yes, I will say it) Welsh where the polite forms are retained? Do these nationalities also not have respect for personal liberty?

I'm no sociolinguist (wish I was), so I may be utterly wrong. I will shut up. Politely.

Jet
04-09-2003, 15:35
I think Bob made some sharp references to the local cultural specifics: citations from the books, easily recognizable humor lines, life of politics and celebreties etc. If you go down from Malaysia to Indoneisa, you will see that Javanese language has four main levels, roughly: normal conversational, professional at work or formal conversations, polite language you use with the seniors, language used only with aristocrats.

but back to Russian language, I know, for example, americans, who are in excellent command of all of the above elements. They speak a vity, sophisticated Russian, but I think it is much more important to understand the soul and heart of people, try to feel like they do, have same happy and frustrated moments. Those who understand this, stand much closer to Russians in my book than those, who just speak the language as an instrument of professional communication. It's all a little confused, but you get my drift.

D.A.R.
05-09-2003, 15:22
to Skinnylad

Thank you for your comments. I have agreed with the first two paragraphs of your massage. But I am not a sociolinguist too, nevertheless I would like to comment to your questions in the third paragraph all the same :). There are many aspects of a language, and their influence on culture interferes. I do not doubt that the Spanish, the French, the Welsh, and so on have respect for personal liberty (I have written about it above) but I wonder why the Russians making distinction between “òû” and “Âû” do not make sufficient distinction between “I” and “everybody else”, between “my own” and “someone else's belongings”… What do we need to understand this difference?

I use patronymics “whenever I feel it's appropriate” too and I think it is right, I do not like an undue familiarity.

twaj
05-09-2003, 15:44
In Pittsburgh, the plural of you is 'yinz' and blue-collar Pittsburghers are often known as 'yinzers.' Yinz is a bastardization of 'you-ins,' which is in turn a bastardization of 'you.'

http://zeeb.library.cmu.edu/SAA-PghHostCmte/articles/Pittsburghese.html

DaveUK1965
14-09-2003, 08:22
Quick question here - are there regional dialects in Russia ? Well, I suppose so ...... I`ve noticed variations in pronunciation and - I think - local accents - but I`m nowhere near expert enough to tell. ;-))

The UK - before English was standardised- used to be so diverse in its`local accents that people from one village could have problems understanding what people from another village were saying. ;-))) English spelling wasn`t standardised until the 18th century and up until the 16th century, the way you spelt words was - purely down to personal self- expression. There were no rules. ;-))

In my part of the world, North West England, the old Lancastrian dialect is beginning to die out and I must be a member of one of the last generations who can "talk broad". To those outside of Northern England, it`s unintelligible gibberish. ;-)) To us - part of the heritage and culture. Wonder if it`s the same in Russia ? Must be. ;-)))

DaveUK1965
14-09-2003, 08:30
http://www.ldsociety.fsnet.co.uk/Dialect%20Dictionary.htm

By `eck, if thi can make yed nor tail o thizere blather, awll be fair peawfoggt in`t noggin. ;-))))